This is a follow on from last week’s piece about simple songs. Someone replied to the last piece by commenting that her song got heard much better by her therapist than by her husband. (Not a unique experience!) This left me wondering…as a therapist I try to hear my patients’ songs without letting my own intrude too much. I’m interested in how our songs work together. Some songs fit my taste much better than others. But I’m not here to comment on my musical tastes. My task is to hear you singing and to try to understand your song. (I remember a patient many years ago whose only song was one of seduction.I was terrified! This left me completely unable to hear the song behind the song. What she needed me to hear was her loneliness. Her fear of intimacy. Her inability to make a healthy marriage. I failed her by not being able to listen properly. All I heard was my own racing pulse!)
One of the challenges of a marriage is to be able to listen to our partner’s song. To add to it. To blend in with it to make a new tune. Sometimes this is easy. If we both think Li’l Lisa Jane is the world’s greatest piece of music ever written, there is no conflict. The problems come when I am sick of Lisa Jane and want to move on somewhere else. In therapy my work is to get to understand the appeal of Lisa Jane. It may be the song your father sang to you when you were small and wanted comforting. It may be the song that you used for your first solo performance. It may be many things for you. As your therapist my task is to be able to understand the various shades of meaning associated with Lisa Jane. And to wonder if you are feeling such and such right now. And to think about what is happening in the session that triggers this response. Then to try to find a context for this behaviour .To help my patient think about other times when Lisa Jane becomes important. Line by line we can understand the various meanings of the song.
This all sounds very glib and easy. All I have to do for 50 minutes is to sit and hear your song. Make a couple of observations and end the session on time. If only… sitting listening to Lisa Jane for 50 minutes week after week is not easy. I, too, will grow to hate the song. I will resent not being able to have a voice. To be excluded from joining in with you. to be disallowed from making any changes to the words or the tune. But as the therapist, this too is part of my job. To bear Lisa Jane every week until a time comes when I am invited to change the record. Or you sing a different version of your making. (This is Winnicott’s realm of magic / religion /play / fantasy.A fabulous place where all things are possible.)
As a therapist I hear all manner of songs. Songs of Love. Hate .Desire.Guilt. Sorrow. Joy. Whilst I may not be comfortable with some, all are welcome. Because any song has meaning. The meaning you give it and, thereby, share with me.